Dan Snow chats about his most dangerous journey yet – to the Congo

Travel gets serious as The One Show's 'History Hunter' embarks on a perilous adventure to this beautiful but war-torn African nation

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the size of Western Europe, and has the world’s second most voluminous river, breathtaking scenery including vast rain forests and lakes, and nature in abundance – sounds like paradise doesn’t it? However, in Dan Snow’s new history show (Dan Snow’s History of Congo 9pm, October 9, BBC2) travel gets serious – as he explores how colonialism, slavery and corruption have torn apart this verdant country.


Snow doesn’t do relaxing travel. In his hit series Filthy Cities, we watched him travel to Paris, London and New York to walk in bile, handle rotten pigs and endure bites from Weil’s disease-infested rats in the sewers. In History Of Congo it gets a lot worse for the historian – he has to avoid gunshots and hide from bandits.

“[The Congos] minerals underpin our western, gadget-obsessed way of life,” explains Snow. Explorers and adventurers have come to the Congo to make their fortunes for decades. The country now suffers from a collapsed infrastructure, overcrowded hospitals, refugees and war. Five million people have died here in last 20 years as a result of the conflict. “It’s the worst country on earth to be born into according to the United Nations,” Snow says.

Go on a wild adventure with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details

Why would you want to travel there? We ask. “It’s one of the most tragic yet important countries on the planet,” he assures us. “[We can] learn about us as humans. Congo’s anarchy is happening now, but the same has happened in Europe, even in Britain, albeit centuries ago. One day, if we make bad choices, it might happen again.”

To create this powerful documentary, Snow’s team built built bridges over streams, flew into bush airstrips, and took dugout canoes down the Congo River, crossing no-mans-land between rebel and government forces. “We wanted to explore the history that has made this country what it is,” he says.

Snow and his crew found themselves in extremely dangerous situations. “There is a still a war in eastern Congo,” he advises, “Shots were fired when we were on the frontline. Much of the rest of the country is lawless. We had to be off the road after dark because of banditry.”

Despite the turmoil, Snow understands why hardier tourists have started to trickle back to the region: “The parks are some of the best in the world,” he explains. “The gorillas are unique and the scenery is breathtaking.” Snow and their crew travelled to Mbandaka on the equator. Via Congo barge, they followed explorer Henry Morton Stanley’s 1870s route through the jungle.

Meanwhile, in Kinshasa, visitors can venture to Tata Raphael Stadium where the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ boxing match was fought between Mohammad Ali and George Foreman, put on by President Mobutu as a publicity stunt.

Snow’s next adventure takes place in the Grand Canyon, where he sleeps with snakes and scorpions, follow his adventures at www.twitter.com/thehistoryguy.

Watch Dan Snow’s History Of Congo a 9pm, October 9 on BBC2


Go on a wild adventure with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details